Chelsea 2-1 West Ham


The first competitive game of Antonio Conte’s reign as Chelsea manager starts with a late winner. Chelsea displayed good ball possession and balance in their play, while also nullifying the offensive threats that West Ham possess. A continuation of the 433/4141, as seen towards the end of preseason, while later on in the game they switched to a front two--used initially in preseason--upon the introduction of one of the two new summer signings Batshuayi.


Maintaining balance with wide rotations
In wide areas, Chelsea used Oscar on the right and Matic on the left to rotate while maintaining positional balance. This was done one wing at a time, so if the ball was on the right the left would remain in their initial positions: Hazard wide on the left wing, Azpilicueta supporting him from behind and Matic central. The rotation in deeper areas would happen from time to time, where the central midfielder would drop deep to collect the ball from the central defenders, while the winger on that side would move centrally into the vacated space and the fullback would move up the wing. This allows balance as the rotations keep the general rigid structure of the formation, while allowing the switch of players with different characteristics into other areas. This is also advantageous as it allows variation in their possession game, such as situations like Hazard being able to receive the ball inside with back to goal, before turning, compared to always having Matic there to receive the ball deeper and facing play.


Chelsea were able to also have a lot of success in finding receivers on the last line both on the right (Willian receiving wide and high, facing the fullback) while they were particularly able to find Hazard and Costa centrally. They would create the circumstances for various passes to Hazard and Costa in these situations upon Matic dropping to receive the ball. Noble would move out to pressure him, while Nordtveit would not move to cover the space left behind Noble. Both of the West Ham wingers didn’t move collectively with the central players in their defensive block as they would be focused on individual defensive play--zonally in midfield next to the central midfield, dropping to join the defensive line, or following an opposition player. In turn the central space in these areas was created for Costa and Hazard to receive the ball, where they would immediately turn (past the defender pressuring them from behind) before running at the rest of the exposed defensive line.

In the final 3rd they had slightly different movements from both sides. Oscar was able to move forward and join the last line--either with or without the ball--while on the other side this space would be occupied by Costa. Ivanovic would narrow his position inside, with Willian wide, while on the other side Matic would be in a similar position to Ivanovic, Azpilicueta wide and Hazard moving between wide and central positions.


While West Ham were able to keep good numbers behind the ball, in and around their own box, to prevent Chelsea from creating many good chances, the blues were able to keep good stability in their possession, while also being able to recover the ball in midfield quickly to prevent any potential counterattacks developing.

Zonal midfield setup
Defensively Chelsea setup in a zonal block, before they would look to apply pressure on West Ham in organised play. Early on in the game Kouyate was moving deep to receive the ball outside of the block--too deep for the block setup in midfield to press--while they were able to find some circulation with the ball, albeit without being able to take it into the Chelsea half. Ayew would move inside early, while Antonio would move up on the right. Ayew was often unable to be found while on the pitch due to the compact Chelsea block, while Antonio had few opportunities to run with the ball on the outside. The latter was mostly be an outlet option during counter attacks, but he was isolated and outnumbered (not always a bad situation for him as he is very unpredictable with the ball).


Later in the half Kouyate moved high and stayed there throughout the rest of the match. He and Carroll were the two forward options on the last line, while Valencia would move inside from the wing to support the second ball when it was played up to the front two. This was rather inconsistent, while being the only options West Ham had to progress out of their deep possession.


Chelsea would press higher up the pitch, with closer distances, after longer passes up to the last line, where the block would move up and apply pressure 1v1 against the backline of The Hammers. Both Oscar and Matic would move up the press, while Kante would join the midfield line in order support them from behind, along with the defensive line moving higher up the pitch.

When Chelsea were defending deeper, there were some situations where Kante moved up to press while Oscar and Matic were both positioned deeper--he also pressed like this in the previous game, where he did it when the other two central midfielder were higher, leaving a lot of open space in front of the back 4. If they are able to find organised ways of allowing Kante to use his large pressing range, such as situationally switching positions with Matic, they can successfully make use of this part of his game--otherwise it would be best for him to remain positional and cover in front of the defence. Oscar was also very active in pressing and winning the ball in deeper midfield areas.

Final switch to a front two
The late substitutions resulted is a much more aggressive and direct approach with the ball, as Chelsea were in need of a goal. Moses and Pedro were both very direct and aggressive in taking on the fullbacks and getting the ball into the box, while also joining the box when the cross was from the other wing. They were able to put the ball into the box on various occasions over a short space of time, especially Moses on the left, to create real pressure moments for West Ham, while the central four of Terry, Cahill, Matic and Kante were able to recover cleared balls quickly to sustain the attack. They also added more long balls to the front two on the last line, where they were able to win the first ball on a couple of occasions, which eventually lead to the setup of the winning goal.

Comments

  1. Excellent insights - particularly in relation to Game 6 analysis.Looks like you are a good follower of Italian tactics.

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